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4 common hand and wrist injuries amongst athletes

Hand and wrist injuries are common amongst athletes, usually due to impact and trauma or repetitive overuse of the joints.

Scaphoid fractures

A scaphoid fracture is a break in one of the small bones in the wrist, commonly caused by falling onto an outstretched hand.

Symptoms of a scaphoid fracture are:

- Pain, swelling and tenderness around the base of the thumb and wrist
- Inability or pain when moving the wrist, with clicking
- Bruising or discolouration
- Decreased grip strength and pinch grip

Treatment for a scaphoid fracture can involve a supportive splint if the fracture is small, but if it is severe you may need surgery.

Surgery involves placing a bone graft into the scaphoid bone and screwing it in place to help with stability and healing.

The wrist is placed in a temporary cast for two weeks, at which point a full cast is applied for a further four weeks.

The cast is then removed and an x-ray of the wrist is taken. Depending on healing, either a removable splint or further cast is applied.

Early use of the fingers and elbow are encouraged but heavy lifting should be avoided until the scaphoid has fully healed.

Broken fingers or thumb

Broken finger and thumb bones are common hand injuries, usually resulting from direct trauma or a fall.

Symptoms usually include:

- Bruising, swelling, pain and trouble moving the affected finger or thumb

Treatment can often involve rehabilitation exercises if the fracture is diagnosed early. If the break is significant then surgery may be needed.

De Quervain's

De Quervain's is inflammation of the sheath surrounding the tendon in the wrist and commonly affects those who have repetitive movements such as from playing sports.

Symptoms of De Quervain's include:

- Pain and swelling near the base of the thumb
- Difficulty grasping or pinching
- Swelling on the thumb side of the wrist
- Pain when moving thumb to little finger

Treatment involves using a splint for support, avoiding the triggering activity and steroid injections to reduce inflammation. If these have not helped then you may need surgery to decompress the sheath and allow the tendon to move freely without causing pain.

Torn tendons

It is possible to rupture the flexor tendon and the extensor tendon.

The flexor tendon helps you grip and bend your fingers, and the extensor tendon enables you to straighten and stretch your fingers.

Symptoms of torn tendons involve:

- Sudden loss of finger movement, inflexion or extension
- Inflammation, pain and swelling
- Difficulty opening or closing the fist

Depending on the type and extent of the injury, the tendon may repair without the need for surgery with rest and wearing a supportive splint.

However, you may need tendon repair surgery to stitch the tendons back together.


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